Once upon a time, I did an interview where I was asked, “If we looked through your kitchen, what would we be most surprised to see?” I replied, “The inordinate amount of chocolate products… There’s Columbian dark chocolate, Swiss dark chocolate, Belgian dark chocolate, vegan chocolate chips, cacao nibs, cacao powder, cocoa powder, and cacao butter, and more…”
It is true, I have a chocolate addiction. The cacao bean, in all its various manifestations, is perhaps my favorite ingredient. It is likely that I will someday retire into the career of making artisan vegan chocolates by hand. But in the meantime, let’s talk about hot chocolate, shall we?
There is no question, the best way to enjoy the fullness of chocolate is by drinking it in a frothed liquid (much like the Aztecs, who discovered the stuff, used to do with their xocolātl drink). So, are we going to whisk some Hershey’s cocoa powder and sugar into milk and call it hot chocolate?
Not quite. If our goal is to bring out every bit of nuanced chocolate flavor, we’re going to avoid cocoa powder altogether and use an entirely different technique (shamelessly inspired by Alton Brown). We’ll “brew” pure cacao grounds in water, then froth it with dark chocolate that has been melted in non-dairy milk. And because it’s the holidays, we’ll also add a few drops of peppermint oil.
The richness and intensity of this liquid chocolate mandates that it be savored slowly in tiny glasses, thus the name: chocolate shots. Leave one out for Santa and you’ll get all the good presents this year.
Makes 4 4-ounce shots
- 1/3 cup cacao nibs
- 1 cup water
- 2 tablespoons sucanat or coconut sugar
- 1 cup non-dairy milk
- 1.5 ounces dark chocolate
- 4 drops peppermint oil
- Pinch of salt
- Coconut whipped cream (optional)
First, you need cacao powder. You can get this by either buying the powder itself (if you can find it) or simply grinding the cacao nibs into a fine powder in a coffee grinder or powerful blender. Combine 1/3 cup of this powder with 1 cup of hot (but not boiling) water and 1-2 tablespoons of sweetener in a french press. If you don’t have a french press, any pitcher will work. Give it 15 minutes to “brew” like coffee.
Meanwhile, warm 1 cup of non-dairy milk over low heat in a saucepan. Any type of milk will work, but I prefer my homemade cashew milk for its incredible creaminess. Then, loosely chop 1.5 – 2 ounces of chocolate (at least 72% dark chocolate) and whisk constantly. Only warm this enough to melt the chocolate – you do not want burned chocolate here.
Using a kitchen strainer, strain the liquid from the cacao grounds and pour right into the saucepan with the milk and chocolate. Add a pinch of salt and one drop of peppermint oil at a time, until it’s just the right amount of pepperminty for you (I used 4 drops) and continue whisking until at the desired temperature.
Finally, let’s froth this stuff. Return to the french press and use the plunger to repeatedly aerate the daylights out of this mixture until it has become frothy and wonderful. Serve in 4-ounch portions and optionally top with a dollop of my coconut whipped cream recipe.
Another great idea: add half a packet to Starbucks via instant coffee to four ounces of this hot chocolate for a peppermint mocha espresso shot. 🙂